For millennials experiencing wanderlust, it’s difficult to satisfy the need to travel without incurring some costs. Even so, millennials famously value experiences, and seeing the world up close is one of them.
Luckily, there are ways to travel on the cheap by working or volunteering abroad. According to a 2008 study by Tourism Research and Marketing, these options are incredibly popular, with 1.6 million people volunteering abroad annually.
So how can you make your dreams of seeing the world happen while also advancing your career and keeping your budget intact? We’ve rounded up 12 resources and organizations that can help millennials see the world for cheap — or even at a profit.
Related: 37 Cheap Travel Tips for Millennials
12 Cheap Ways to Go Abroad
1. Escape The City
According to its site, Escape The City has helped over 213,000 people leave their corporate jobs for work opportunities around the world. The job listing site connects beleaguered, bored workers with job opportunities across the globe, boasting success stories about users who have who have “escaped” to everywhere from Kenya to Sri Lanka. For those who are interested in learning more, Escape The City also offers an “Escape Festival,” blog and global meetups.
Focused on international education and alternative travel, GoAbroad offers users a way to connect with global opportunities, including volunteer, educational, teaching and internship work. Along with job postings, GoAbroad offers a blog with helpful travel tips and resources, as well as information about scholarships, insurance and study abroad loans.
3. Meet, Plan, Go!
This organization holds workshops to help travelers take a break from their careers, with regular events in New York City.
David Feldsott, founder of PanTrek, told me how an educational event hosted by Meet, Plan, Go! helped him decide to take a career vacation.
“After attending a Meet, Plan, Go! event in New York City, I finally had the confidence I needed to make the leap into traveling,” Feldsott said. “In late 2012, I was slaving away at my finance job in N.Y.C. I always had the desire to travel, but I was just not sure about taking a career break.
Feldsott said the event featured speakers with extensive travel experience and coordinated group sessions for participants to discuss different topics (solo travel, budgeting and travel insurance, for example).
“I always imagined that world travel was prohibitively expensive and that I could not afford it, but the organizers helped me crunch the numbers and proved to me that living in New York City was actually a lot more expensive than backpacking,” he said. “Within one week, my final itinerary included two years of travel to 30-plus countries.”
4. Find A Crew and Yachtloop
If your idea of getting away involves international waters, Find a Crew and Yachtloop connect captains and ships with crew members. Job positions include everything from skipper to dive instructor to steward; new ship hands have the opportunity to sail the world and see new destinations.
5. Peace Corps
One of the most well-known volunteer organizations in the world, the Peace Corps has helped nearly 220,000 Americans serve in 140 countries in its 54-year history. Opportunities range in length, experience level and specialty. For example, the general Peace Corps program is a two-year engagement, whereas its Peace Corps Response option is a shorter assignment of three to 12 months, though it requires 10 years minimum of work experience.
Other options include a specialized program for graduate students and the Global Health Service Partnership, which is available to those pursuing medical and nursing careers. Assignments come with various perks, including vacation days, health insurance, living and housing stipends, and “readjustment” allowances for after service is over.
“The Peace Corps is a bold move, as you are pretty much guaranteed to experience culture shock,” Leeyen Rogers, vice president of marketing at JotForm, told me. “However, if you have a really adventurous personality and are up for anything (possibly including living without running water and many of the comforts of technology), then it is the opportunity of a lifetime to experience a new culture and get your living expenses compensated. It also gives you the opportunity to learn a new language.”
6. Teach Away
This resource is specifically geared toward those who wish to teach oversees. Disciplines vary from physical education to core subjects like English, science and math, with dozens of countries represented in the program.
I spoke with Elyse, who requested her last name not be shared, about her experience teaching English for 2.5 years through Teach Away in South Korea.
“Financially, I’m sure that new grads in America make far more money than I made in Seoul,” she said. “But that being said, I was extremely comfortable financially. I loved the freedom to travel, eat, drink and explore! Everything was affordable and accessible in Seoul, which I do not feel is true for cities like San Francisco (or even Berkeley or Oakland).
“But more importantly, teaching in Korea provided me the most amazing avenue to live and travel abroad comfortably. I would not have been able to afford to live abroad for two and a half years had I not had my amazing job. … It was awesome to be financially independent after graduation, but the experiences I had living abroad are priceless.”
Elyse told me she earned the equivalent of $2,000 each month, with a fully furnished studio apartment and round-trip airfare covered, which she said is typical of these programs.
“Teaching in Korea was the scariest decision I’ve ever made, but led me to the most transformative period of my life,” she said.
7. Go Overseas
GoOverseas.com is a useful resource for those looking to fill a gap year, intern internationally, volunteer, teach abroad or study in another country. Users simply select the country of interest and their preferred program type, and browse the results. You can sign up for programs directly on the site, ranging in length based on the individual’s preferences.
8. WWOOF and HelpX
If you’re looking to strike a balance between your travel agenda and volunteering, WWOOFing might be your best bet. An acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, those who volunteer offer their labor in exchange for food and accommodations. This is a great way for backpackers to both find lodging and food along their excursions. WWOOFing is possible all over the world, from Africa and the Americas to the Middle East and Europe.
HelpX (also known as Help Exchange) is much like WWOOF — volunteers work on anything from organic and non-organic farms to hostels, sailing boats and B&Bs in exchange for room and board.
9. Projects Abroad
Established in 1992, Projects Abroad connects interested volunteers and students with opportunities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The program’s offerings can truly help build your résumé, with focuses ranging from teaching to health care, international development, business, journalism and environmentalism, among other fields.
Participants benefit from flexible start dates, as well as the support of full-time staff close to every destination. According to its site, Ghana, India, Fiji and Nepal are among the most popular locales for volunteers.
10. Grassroots Volunteering
An aggregator of volunteer and community programs, Grassroots Volunteering helps those interested in serving international communities with opportunities to do so. Volunteers can work in classrooms, help promote sustainability and assist with rural development.
11. The Global Work & Travel Company
If your interests lie with the environment and wildlife, you can volunteer overseas through The Global Work & Travel Co. With options in Africa, India, Nepal, Thailand, Morocco, Greece, Spain and Fiji, to name a few, opportunities are available for two-week to one-year durations.
Those who volunteer through this program can work to rescue animals, rehabilitate monkeys, care for orphans, raise husky puppies, teach in preschools, coach community sports leagues and take wildlife photography. This is a great opportunity for anyone considering a career in zoology or childhood development.
12. Habitat For Humanity
Another popular travel organization, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes for others. The program operates both domestically and internationally, boasting 1,400 affiliates in the U.S. and 70 around the globe. More than 1 million families have been helped through the program since it was founded it 1976. Those interested in volunteering can join a program of six to 12 months abroad or take advantage of specialized opportunities, like the Women Build, Veterans Build and Youth programs.
Photo credit: Photo Africa